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On Naming Fictional Characters

    Conor Jest Fantasy series Everlan character - Aeryun

    Choosing the right name for your characters is important. Here are three features that influence character names.

    There’s a lot to be said about name power. Why? Because social psychology matters. Sherlock Holmes could never solve the crime with a name like Sherlock Sherringford. Ok, maybe he could. I seriously doubt it, but maybe he could. The point is..

    ..we meet and get to know characters by their thoughts and actions but we remember them by their name.

    So, what’s in a name?

    Let’s take a brief Look at the Ambiguous Nature of Names

    3 Features All Names Contain:

    1. The number of syllables – representing the physical aspect of a name

    Solid, two syllable names like Jane Eyre, Bran Stark, Jon Snow, and Jo March seem to help facilitate strong, driven, or unwavering characters whereas three syllable names can offer a familiar, subtle character complexity. Think Dorian Gray, Rhett Butler, and Hazel Grace.

    Four and Five syllable names seem to provide room for diverse, less predictable, personality quirks. Bilbo Baggins, Mary Poppins, Phileas Fogg, Pippi Longstocking, Hannibal Lecter, Willy Wonka and the like come to mind.

    Six+ syllable names like Inigo Montoya and Daenerys Targaryen can embody complexity, drive, and unpredictability. They can also become phonetically rememberable.

    *And no matter how many syllables, Singular Names can become iconic. They are simple. They are direct. They serve as a brand name. Real life characters like Cher, Bono, Pink, and Madonna have captured the magic of this branded persona. Fictionally, think Beowulf, Fagin, Gollum, Sauron, Simba, Tarzan and Tintin. And character names sometimes used with an added “of” such as “Elrond of Rivendell”, etc.,

    Singular names serve to iconify, and sometimes simplify a character by indelibly branding their personality with a stamp of uniqueness within the created world of the story.

    2. The sound of a name – representing the emotional aspect of a name

    The sound of a name can be catchy, familiar, sexy, sinister, smooth, soothing, tough, unusual, and 101 other adjectives. That’s because a name can make you psychologically feel some of those adjectives. Think Severus Snape, in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. Not only does this fictional character name literally carry the words sever and us, the double S’s provide connotations of S words like sneaky, shifty, and scary. Snape rhymes with Snake. Need I say more? This example name shows a potent description presented to the reader every time this character’s name is invoked in the story. Subtle or not, descriptors in character names can reinforce the emotional impact of a character.

    3. The occult (hidden) meaning – representing the psychic aspect of a name

    It is said that personality traits can be interpreted by calculating a name’s numerical value. This is the underlying idea of Numerology: that everything in the Universe is vibrational. This ancient mathematical system of assigning numbers to letters is used throughout the world today.

    The idea is that names possess a vibrational personality complete with precepts governing one’s conduct and inner nature. Choosing a name that is “in synch”, a name that “suits” your character via numerology, can add a hidden punch of character to your characters.

    The system works like this:

    • Use a simple equation in which each letter is assigned a number.
    • The sum is then reduced to a single digit (unless the sum = 11, 22, or 33)
    • The single digit is then interpreted in summary.

    The Equation: Each letter of the alphabet is assigned a number from 1 to 9: ie;

    A=1 B=2 C=3 D=4 E=5 F=6 G=7 H=8 I=9 J=1 K=2 L=3 M=4 N=5 O=6 P=7 Q=8 R=9 S=1 T=2 U=3 V=4 W=5 X=6 Y=7 Z=8

    All final numbers are then reduced to a single number by adding each digit.

    Example: D a e n e r y s T a r g a r y e n = 4+1+5+5+5+9+7+1 + 2+1+9+7+1+9+7+5+5= 37 + 46 = 83 = 11 (8+3) OR 37=3 + 7 = 10 = 1. (Drop all zeros) 46=4 +6 = 10 = 1.

    In this example, the name Daenerys has a sum of 1 as does her surname Targaryen. But, rather than reduce her total to 1 + 1 = 2, her full name equals 83 which is reduced to 11. *11, 22, and 33 are considered master numbers and carry additional interpretation.

    *Learn more about this subtle aspect of names by searching ‘numerology interpretations’ on the web.

    Additionally, creating names using an anagram can provide fictional characters an extra dimension. This approach adds a new layer of mental meaning to your character’s name. More of an esoteric after-effect, anagrams can be a fun way to explore the depths of your characters and story. In writing the Everlan trilogy, chapters, places, things, and even verse, became vehicles to embed anagrams throughout the series and are included in the Eggs & Extra’s end-feature in each book.

    Example anagrams used in Where the Witches Dwell:
    • Carmine D’Garden = crime and danger (name)
    • Dandling Oars = Dragon Island (place)
    • Pearlytok = portal key (thing)

    Explore naming your fictional characters using various syllables, sounds, and meanings.

    Ultimately, fictional character names should ‘feel right’ to both author and reader.

    —And, in the end, this is debatable, if not, subtle stuff. But isn’t that the stuff dreams are made of?